Last week I quoted an F1 team boss about all the excitement over the Lotus F1 Team’s suspension system. “If it is illegal we don’t care,” he said, “and if it is legal everyone will soon have it”. The conclusion was that whatever happened it would not be a game-changer in F1 terms.
On Friday the Formula 1 Race Director Charlie Whiting let it be known to the teams that the federation’s interpretation of the rules means that the system cannot be used. That is not actually a rule change, but rather an interpretation and a team can turn up and try to use the system and see what the FIA Stewards would say, but it is generally considered wise to follow such “guidance”. I guess that this has been done in order to stop the question being raised in public protests after the season begins. Rules, these days, are often open to interpretation and so the process of what is “legal” and what is “illegal” is a complicated one, particularly as the FIA does not publish the clarifications that are issued to the teams. It is however better to do things this way than to have messy protests and cars racing under appeal etc etc.
So that little storm in a teacup is over. Now it is a question of seeing which of the teams manage to deliver their cars on time and which of them fail to make it. I am sure all the big teams will be on schedule, but I am keeping an eye on the small fry. I am loathe to even mention HRT these days given the screeds of abuse I get from Spain if I suggest that the team is anything other than magnificent, but I did notice that the team is trying to drum up interest by running a competition called “How much do you know about HRT F1 Team?”. The prize for this is “a whole day of pre-season testing in Barcelona” on Sunday March 4 – so long as you pay the fares to get there and the accommodation.
So, how much do we know about the HRT team?
The team has a base in Valencia, as already mentioned. And it has recruited some people, mainly from the old Renault team. Last I heard the monocoque was still being built at Mubea Carbo Tech GmbH, on the Austro-German border, between Salzburg and Freilassing. This will be called the F112. The actual assembly of all the parts will be done at Holzer Engineering in Bobingen, near Augsburg. The key to whether the team makes it on time for the testing is whether or not the processes are well-managed as it is really about making sure that a selection of sub-contractors deliver on time. This depends largely on money and good management. The team will lose some staff as soon as the manufacturing process is completed as these personnel work for Colin Kolles and are simply on loan to HRT. The cars will be handed over to the HRT operation in Valencia to be raced. There have been lots of rumours about whether or not this will all happen as planned, but the proof of the pudding, as they say in England, is in the eating.
The team has signed a deal with Pedro de la Rosa and is reportedly talking to others, although there is a contract in place with Tonio Liuzzi. We will see what happens.
The Marussia team says that it will not use the 2012 car at the first test, but will go to the first test with the 2011 cars. This will allow Charles Pic to have some track time. The new car is a complete rethink but nothing wildly innovative as the team has concluded that a good solid car is the best option. The new car is due to appear at the second test.
Meanwhile Kimi Raikkonen has already been out in a Lotus, running at Valencia this morning in a two-year-old Renault R30, although this has been liveried up in 2011 colours. Raikkonen is spending two days getting back in sync with F1 machinery. Although testing is banned teams are allowed to use two-year old cars and tyres that are designated for demonstration runs, filming etc. The test will not provide much information, but it will give Kimi the chance to drive an F1 car again.